US Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John F. Campbell. (Sam Shore/Army)
Soldiers could be in store for significantly smaller, more technically advanced brigade combat teams, according to US Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Campbell, who discussed the service’s future in an interview with Army Times this month from Fort Hood, Texas. Interview highlights, edited for space and clarity:
Q. The Army is accelerating by two years its plan to inactivate 10 brigade combat teams. Can you give us an update on how that’s going?
A. For [fiscal 2014], we’ll look at five BCTs, and FY15 another five.
We’ll have to see how the first couple ones go, and we may have to adjust as we move forward. In this time of uncertainty, where we already have some readiness issues, it’s a good thing to go ahead and get as much done as we can now. We already have some turbulence and some unready brigades, and we have brigades coming out of Afghanistan that continue to push this to the right.
Q. What does the future hold?
A. Our brigades will go to about a 4,500-man brigade, and what we’re looking to in the future is having the same capability or even stronger, but with only 3,000.
If we downsize a brigade, how can we keep the same types of brigades out there but be smaller? With technology, how can we do that? Robotics, how can that help us?
Do we need a nine-person vehicle, or can we go to six-person? Do we use avatars?
There’s a lot of science and technology. What we’re trying to do now is make sure, over the next several years, we can keep our [science and technology] budget up so we can help ourselves down in 2025.
Q. The Army suffered in terms of readiness last year because of the budget, and many combat training center rotations were canceled. Where does the Army stand now?
A. If you’re going to Afghanistan, you were funded. If you were in Afghanistan, you were funded. If you were in Korea, you were funded. If you were the [global response force], you were funded to the appropriate level.
Then all the other brigades would have to come down, and over time, the readiness would come down. We thought we could continue with that because of the residual readiness we had and the numbers we had, [but] because of what we didn’t do in ’13, we knew ’14 was going to be a bigger problem.
If the president said, “I need 20,000 troops to go do X,” would the Army be able to do that?
Two-plus-two-plus-two-plus-one is a short-term-only readiness-mitigating measure. I don’t want you to think this is where we want to be. This is short-term only.
So we’re going to put money in two armored, two Stryker, two infantry [BCTs] and one combat aviation brigade, to make sure they get those trained.
What happened with the new Bipartisan Budget Act that was passed before Christmas, all that money, we’re still working on what we get back, what our share is. Most of all that money will go right back into readiness, and we’re going to try to buy more BCTs so there’s potential to get back two or three more brigades worth of readiness.
Q. The Army is working to cut its two-star and higher headquarters by 25 percent. Can you give us an update?
A. We’ve got two different phases. Focus Areas Group 1 is where we look at two-star headquarters and above to reduce about 25 percent.
Some of them, we will recommend that 25 percent is the right number [to cut], some of them we’ll say they can absorb a larger cut ... and some may go below 25 percent.
Focus Areas Group 2, we look at institutional headquarters.
Should we, for instance, take Army Africa and Army Europe and combine them? ... Should we look at Army North and Army South and combine them? I don’t know, but we’ve got to look at that.